Building No. 4
Recognized Federal Heritage Building
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, n.d.
Nivens Avenue, French Cable Wharf, DREA, CFB Halifax - DRDC, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1916 to 1916
Event, Person, Organization:
Compagnie française des câbles télégraphiques
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
Building No. 4, located at the French Cable Wharf, is a simple, square structure of reinforced concrete construction and classically inspired design. The building is distinguished by its simple, classical details and elaborate moulded cornice on which the words “COMPAGNIE FRANCAISE DES CABLES TELEGRAPHIQUES” are detailed in concrete. Simple openings for single-hung windows punctuate the walls. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Building No. 4 is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
Building No. 4 is closely associated with the development of telecommunications in Canada as well as with the theme of military defence. Built by the Compagnie Francaise des Cables Télégraphiques, who were involved in the search for survivors from the Titanic in 1912, the building served as the company’s Canadian headquarters from which it coordinated ocean-going vessels to lay and repair their trans-Atlantic communication cables. As the sole surviving building on the Dartmouth shore following the famous tragedy of the 1917 Halifax harbour explosion, the building is also directly associated with the local development of the harbour when several foreign cable companies established themselves in the Halifax area. The building was subsequently recycled for use as part of the physical plant for Defence Research and Development Canada, the national authority for providing science and technology services related to the nation’s defence capabilities.
Building No. 4 is a good example of the early use of structural concrete in Canada. The reinforced concrete structure was designed with classical character and very good craftsmanship as evidenced in its simple square massing and modest ornamentation including paneled corner pilasters and a moulded cornice. The building’s good functional design, expressed in its solid construction, permitted its later accommodation of interior diving tanks and heavy equipment.
Building No. 4 reinforces the semi-industrial character of its wharf setting and is a familiar structure on the waterfront.
Shannon Ricketts, Building No. 4, Research Building, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 90-090; Building No. 4, Research Building, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Heritage Character Statement, 90-090.
The character-defining elements of Building No. 4 should be respected.
Its classically-inspired composition, functional design and craftsmanship, for example: the simple square massing with a projecting foundation base, cornice and flat roof line; the reinforced-concrete construction and surviving exterior surface material; the classical details such as the framing panelled corner pilasters, raised window trim and moulding on the cornice; the cornice inscription, “COMPAGNIE FRANCAISE DES CABLES TELEGRAPHIQUES.”
The manner in which Building No. 4 reinforces the character of its wharf setting and is a familiar structure on the waterfront, as evidenced by: its scale and solid appearance in a semi-industrial environment of compatibly scaled buildings; its local familiarity as a building associated with the Halifax harbour explosion and the development of telecommunications in Canada.
Heritage Character Statement
The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.
Building No. 4 was constructed in 1916. Interior alterations and a small rear addition were undertaken at unknown dates. The building is currently used as a research building. The Department of National Defence is the custodian. See FHBRO Building Report 99-90c.
Reasons for Designation
Building No. 4 has been designated 'Recognized' because of its historical associations, architectural value and its environmental significance.
The building is associated with two nationally significant themes: the development of telecommunications in Canada and the military defence of the country. Built by the Compagnie Française des Cables Télégraphiques, the building served as the company's Canadian headquarters from which it operated ocean-going vessels to lay and repair their trans-Atlantic communication cables. As the sole surviving building on the Dartmouth shore following the 1917 Halifax harbour explosion, and one of only two cable buildings that survive in the Halifax harbour, the building testifies to an important period in the local development of the harbour when several foreign cable companies established themselves in the Halifax area.
The building was subsequently used as a physical plant and research building by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) for research and development of undersea warfare and marine vehicle technology.
The building is an early and well executed example of a reinforced concrete structure, whose functional design, craftsmanship and materials have permitted its later accommodation of interior diving tanks and heavy equipment. The exterior of the two-storey building, while of relatively simple design, displays a confident handling of the classically-derived architectural elements. The later addition of a one storey addition to the rear of the building has not significantly impacted on the character of the building. The original simple layout of the building's interior has been significantly modified.
The essential relationship between Building No. 4 and its immediate landscape has been retained, and, as the earliest contributing element to the semi-industrial character of the wharf, the building is a familiar structure on the waterfront.
Character Defining Elements
The character of the building is defined by its historic associations, functional design and its modest classically-inspired composition and detailing.
The functional design of the building is expressed by its early 20th Century reinforced concrete construction and the somewhat irregular placement of the simple window openings.
As a good, early example of reinforced concrete construction, the building's surviving exterior surface material contributes to its character.
Its classically-inspired composition consists of a simple square massing, with a projecting foundation base, framing corner pilasters, cornice and flat roof line.
The modest ornamentation reinforces the building's classical character and includes panelled corner pilasters, raised window trim, and moulded cornice.
The cornice inscription, 'Compagnie Française des Cables Télégraphiques', testifies to the building's historical association with the development of telecommunications in Canada.
The building's size, presence and retention of its relationship with its immediate landscape all reinforce the industrial character of the wharf.